Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Molten Weapons Facility Take 2: GW2

Ravious and Jeromai both posted recently about how long it takes players to travel from exploration to exploitation. Nothing like as long the two weeks the new Flame and Frost dungeon is scheduled to hang around it seems.

My experience has been somewhat different. I first ventured inside the Molten Alliance's lair beneath the Shiverpeaks an hour or so after the Vigil breached the gate. No-one knew what to expect and we had no strats to follow, let alone exploits to, well, exploit. We barreled through the whole thing without single death until we reached the bosses. My ranger was never even Downed. The boss fight did see a lot of us lying on the ground, but everyone got revived as necessary and we beat both bosses on the first attempt.

Mrs Bhagpuss did the run on both of her accounts in PUGs during the first couple of days and had no more trouble than I did. That left us needing just one more trip to finish up Flame and Frost on my second account. Not wanting to leave it right to the end I took my Elementalist out to Wayfarers Foothills last night to get it done. Mrs Bhagpuss came along with her Necromancer to see what she could get out of the chest.

Having read the posts linked above, and given the relative cakewalk the dungeon had been for a totally unpracticed and inexperienced PUG on the opening day, I was expecting to get the whole thing out of the way in half an hour or so. Two hours later my Ele stumbled out into the bitter Shiverpeaks wind dressed in nothing but her underwear, surprised and profusely grateful to have gotten out at all.

How did it come to this?

Back to the beginning. There weren't many people waiting outside when we arrived. My plan was to reply to the first LFM request, join up and follow whoever took the lead, let them do the work while we trundled along at the back and did we were told. Only problem with that plan? No-one Looking For More. There weren't any parties there at all.

Rather than stand around complaining about it in the traditional fashion we joined the only other person LFP, a Thief, and started recruiting. The problem with recruiting, of course, is the people you recruit tend to think you're going to lead them. Having done the dungeon precisely once, and not having understood much of what was going on even then, I made the point strongly as we acquired each new member that I wasn't in charge and anyone who thought they knew what they were doing was welcome to put on the Captain's hat. No-one took me up on the offer.

We had five people in no time. So fast in fact that I was still recruiting and had to have it pointed out to me that there were already five of us. We stepped inside the Dungeon and before anyone could even speak to Rox one person announced his doorbell was ringing and another let on that he had to see to his dog. As the Thief observed, better then than when we were on the final boss.

Our thief, on the way to do something thiefy
That turned out to be the only such interruption in what would be a long and difficult adventure. Well, unless you count the Asura Engineer who pulled a vanishing trick after a particularly bad pull about half an hour in, which I don't, since he'd said only one word since we arrived and the Ranger was able to call in a charming Charr Guardian from his guild to replace him in less than a minute.

It all started so well, too. The ambush was dispatched almost derisevely. We loped along behind Rox and her burrowing machine burning down anything that got in our way. Mrs Bhagpuss's Sylvari necro, blithely ignoring Rox's warnings about hot coals, set herself on fire in her eagerness to get her hands on the Azurite, but her leaves were barely singed.

Everyone's on fire. That's probably not a good thing.
We rounded the end of the tunnel to confront the Champion Ember. He's supposed to be the hardest of the three possible spawns but we dampened his fires without too much trouble. On to the Weapons Test Room we marched. Someone ran straight into the Safe Corner and we all followed but after a couple of minutes the Thief decided it was against the famous thiefly code of honor to do anything sneaky so she ran out into the middle to dance with the flames. The rest of the Test passed with everyone running about and dodging back into the corner as amused them most. Gaiety and abandon prevailed.

She's usually so demure, too
Things began to take a turn for the worse in the Cryogenic Chamber. I hadn't even noticed this on my first run, we went through it so fast. This time: full party wipe. I was in Water attunement, wielding the healer's staff Memory of The Sky. Much good it did us. It was at this point that the Engineer bailed, although since he said nothing and we'd been doing very well until this first set-back maybe he just disconnected. We gave him the requisite couple of minutes then called the Charr Guardian off the benches.

He needed all his feline patience because from the moment he joined us things went rapidly downhill. I struggle to explain why, because bringing him on board made the party considerably stronger as a unit, especially since he took on the role of leader most efficiently, something we'd been muddling through without until then. Nonetheless we managed to wipe again half way through rescuing the prisoners and much of the time two or even three players were Down. Rox did a great job reviving us.

We made it to the Platform, battered and bruised but still in good spirit. A brief discussion ensued over which Boss to kill first. Everyone who had an opinion agreed on the Berserker. It was at this point that the Ranger let slip he'd done the dungeon about twenty times already, something he'd very wisely kept to himself until then.

Great grouping with you Rox...
I'll gloss over the agonies of the Big Fight. The first attempt left all of us dead and the Berserker still at 90% health. Second and third attempts didn't go a lot better, although there was some marginal evidence of improvement. For the fourth attempt we switched tactics and went for the Mole, who everyone called The Robot. Things went much better. I think we wiped first time but I'm not sure. It's all a bit of a blur to be honest. Either way, in short enough order The Robot went down and the cut scene played.

That left The Berserker. He was a nightmare. My only other experience of him was that he offered a tough fight, but my earlier group had run him around, worn him down and taken him out on the first attempt. This time it didn't go that way.

Each time we tried we ended up with three people Down and two trying to kite to victory. One time it was me and the Ranger and in what seemed like several hours we got Berserker Bill to 50%. I'm pleased I got that one good run even though it did us no good in the end because other than that I spent most of the time lying down. At least it made it look like I was trying.

...and you too Frostbite!
At this point I have to say once again that I must be very lucky with PUGs. Far from the social cesspools most people seem to dip into, my experience has largely been sunshine and rainbows. The dungeon took three or four times longer than it should, something of which the Ranger who'd done it twenty times must have been all too well-aware. Despite this and even though in the end he and his Guardian guildie ended up tag-teaming the Berserker from half health to dead while the rest of us lay around offering nothing more useful than "You can do it!" encouragement from the floor, everyone kept good their sense of humor throughout. There was never a moment when I thought anyone was going to call it quits. We'd started and we were damn well going to finish.

The key to victory was probably when the Guardian/Ranger duo finally gave up trying to get the rest of us back on our feet. Indeed, I would say that in both groups it was trying to revive others that made the fight seem more difficult than it really was. Without the need to stop and make targets of themselves the two were able to find a rhythm, playing the Berserker between them, wearing him down steadily until he finally fell over and we all stood up.

Wanting to show willing I grabbed a bomb and placed it and in a few seconds we were all crushed together in the lift. Rather embarrassing in my Ele's case, given what she wasn't wearing. The Guardian linked the Tonic recipe he'd gotten from the chest so I guess he was happy he came, which was just as well as he'd had to do most of the heavy lifting. We said our goodbyes and I made a hasty trip to the Repairer.

Everyone find something else to look at!
So that's most likely it for the Molten Weapons Facility as far as I'm concerned. Speed runs remain notional, exploits theoretical and my interest in running any kind of dungeon in GW2 is as it ever was, marginal. The one thing it did make me realize is how very much I miss playing a proper healer in a dedicated healing role, with real healing abilities that I can target as needed. Frankly, the whole thing would have gone better and been more enjoyable with an old-fashioned Healer/Tank combo. Under GW2's Trinity-free combat model, all too often we just end up trying to cobble something similar together out of poor-quality, second-rate parts. I'm ready for the Trinity to make a comeback, as it surely will, if not in this particular game.

Was it fun? In a way, although I'm not sure "fun" is the right word. Completing something you set out to do do even though it turns out to be a lot harder than you expected is satisfying. Getting it done in good company, with good humor and a few jokes is even better. In the end, though, I can think of a lot of more fun ways to have fun. I hope ANet can, too.

20 comments:

  1. Something for thought:

    "Frankly, the whole thing would have gone better and been more enjoyable with an old-fashioned Healer/Tank combo. Under GW2's Trinity-free combat model, all too often we just end up trying to cobble something similar together out of poor-quality, second-rate parts."

    "The key to victory was probably when the Guardian/Ranger duo [...] were able to find a rhythm, playing the Berserker between them, wearing him down steadily until he finally fell over and we all stood up."

    @Bhagpuss, the truth is GW2 really not need the "holly" trinity. If two players can kill that boss, why you think GW2 need the trinity? The key of victory is when all 5 players find a rhythm and start to play as a team. Healer, dps and tank are cheap mechanics.

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    1. I didn't say it needed it. I said it would be easier and more enjoyable. Like most of us, I've experienced a number of different approaches to group content. Some I like better than others. The GW2 version is one I like less.

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    2. I played a healer in WoW from 2006 to 2008 or so, and have been a tank with healer alts ever since.

      So I was firmly in the 'tank / heals' camp.

      And I am glad this MMO has neither.

      I don't think it really makes it easier or more fun for a lot of folks - it just shifts responsibility to 'that other person' when things go south. If you're the tank you blame the heals and DPS. If you're the heals you blame the tank and DPS. If you're the DPS you blame the tank, heals, and the other DPSer who was lower on the meter thanks to the special filters you have on Recount to make you always look best.

      In GW2, when it goes south... its hard to cast blame, so you kinda have to own up to the possibility that maybe you all goofed a tad... Even yourself...

      Unless you have zerker gear in which case you go on the forums and blame ArenaNet while kicking everyone else out of your PUG.

      I don't miss that 'faked trinity' because it was a severe gimmick. The last time standing in the school yard and yelling out 'Yo momma so big she got her own zip code' actually worked to keep the other gang of kids off my mates... I was about 5 or 6 years old.

      Once you get past 'Yo Momma' jokes, and the inevitable follow up of 'my Dad could kick your dad's butt', gang fights get nasty. Everybody's knifing and shooting everybody. And if you stop and tell your mate to get aggro he's going to think your nuts...

      Likewise if you look at "The Girl (tm)" in your gang and demand she start putting neosporin on everyone faster, cause "that's what they're for right?", she's going to punk you...

      GW2 combat feels more alive when you can't so easily predict the enemy's actions or who they're going to take out, and when everyone has to pull similar and equal weight.

      But if folks want the trinity again, there are other MMOs. Some of them even new ones. Don't think its the right way to go, but they're out there.

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  2. I'm actually somewhat surprised you'd yearn for the Trinity. For the open world and solo play, the Trinity should not exist. Players need to be able to be self-sufficient, and not have difficulty soloing content just because they chose a "healer" class and does subpar damage, or choose a "DPS" and can't kill mobs without a "Tank" holding aggro. The Trinity gives structure, but it also restricts. The good does not wash out the bad.

    All that being said, I'm surprised because in my mind I've categorized you as an open world/solo player who the non-Trinity benefits the most, as opposed to instanced dungeon/raid people who I can totally understand wanting the Trinity back.

    Honestly though, the biggest problem with dungeons in GW2 is that the majority of the player base don't understand the two most important defensive components (Endurance for dodging and combat resurrects) because 1. Anet doesn't teach us anything and 2. it's completely different from other games. People are used to using healing as the primary "defense." But GW2 tosses away that concept and beats it halfway to death. So players come in with this pre-conceived notion of healing through damage, and of course they're going to fail most of the time since the dungeons are not designed that way.

    In other news: I lied when I said I'm winding down on this game.

    -Ursan

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    1. I tend to think of open world and dungeons completely differently. You have me pegged rightly when it comes to open world play. Under the open sky I like to solo or duo and that works best with classes or builds that are reasonably self-sufficient.

      In dungeons, however, I am a pure healer. I played a Cleric in Everquest for two years when the level cap was 60 and 65. The great majority of my adventuring gameplay over that period was in groups and it remains both the best and the defining group experience of my MMO career.

      Then there were the two long periods adding up to 18 months or more that I spent as an EQ1 Beastlord, where my best and favorite role was buffing, off-tanking and back-up healing. And my five years playing a Necromancer as a main healer in a duo with Mrs Bhagpuss in EQ2. You'd be surprised how good a healer an EQ2 necromancer can be, even with a demented ratonga Bruiser as a partner.

      Given my preferences I'd group all day and heal til my fingers bleed. I want to heal in a setting that gives me time to wisecrack and chat, though, not with a bunch of strangers who tear around like squirrels on methedrine and never speak unless it's to swear at someone for being 0.001 seconds late on a heal (my brief WoW experience as a healer that would be).

      Bring back the stately pace of dungeon groups from EQ circa 2002-2204 and I'll be in Dungeons day and night. I used to Tank too, albeit nervously! And I was a decent CC Enchanter in my day. All lost and gone before...

      And I'm not surprised on your other news. The hook sets deep.

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    2. Can't edit comments even on my own blog grr! 2204 should be 2004, obviously.

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    3. Oh don't mention WoW. I played a healer (Druid) through WoW. It was enough to make me hate people.

      I'm not sure what EQ did right (Never played it, perhaps you can enlighten me.) but generally I attribute it to the playerbase becoming more focused on extrinsic rewards vs the intrinsic rewards. It disappoints me. I feel like some people lose sight of the fact that we are playing "games." And even through failure, players can still have fun by socializing and working together with other people to overcome the challenge. Isn't that the point of MMOs?

      -Ursan

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  3. "Frankly, the whole thing would have gone better and been more enjoyable with an old-fashioned Healer/Tank combo. Under GW2's Trinity-free combat model, all too often we just end up trying to cobble something similar together out of poor-quality, second-rate parts."

    This is a big part of what killed my enthusiasm for the game early on. Not that they've tried to move away from the trinity, but that the combat just doesn't seem to be that well designed to do without the trinity.

    The dungeons seem to be tuned to be pretty hard given that the game gives you zero clue how to play in this new gaming paradigm. The bigger event fights, like the dragon, teach you nothing about how to operate as a tight 5 man unit.

    I've read about some of the flavour of the month builds that elites are using to farm dungeons (zerker+mesmer) but I'm just not interested in that aspect of the game. The difficulty of the dungeon fights is so at odds with the outdoor PVE experience.

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    1. "This is a big part of what killed my enthusiasm for the game early on. Not that they've tried to move away from the trinity, but that the combat just doesn't seem to be that well designed to do without the trinity."

      The problem is that the combat is WELL designeted to do without the trinity, but the players want do it with the trinity... and the dungeons were not designeted for the trinity.

      After too much time conditioning the peoples mind, too much players have that "trinity" imprinted into the brains and cannot stop to try to play as if the trinity really existed at GW2. And then everything goes wrong, because there are no real tanks (no taunt) or healers (regen?).

      See Baghus examples:
      1- first run was fast and easy and no one know the dungeon because it was at the first two hours from dungeon launch;
      2- second run is very hard and 3 players wiped at final boss;
      3- two players from that group (ranger and gaurdian) that were from same guild "find a rythm" and kill that last boss while that 3 players are down.

      Take note: all that examples are for the SAME dugneon. The variable is not the dungeon, it can be made easy and fast and without the "holly trinity". I made that same dungeon at least 7 times with PUGs, and I had fast and easy runs and not so fast runs, and I know that dungeon can be made fast and easy without the "holly trinity", but change the group composition (players) and that not happens.

      The variable are the players... how the players interact and try work as a team (or not). That two guys from same guild evidently knew how to play as team, they two killed that last boss, and I can guess that first group had members that too knew it (professional dungeoners? GW2 have players that run dungeons non stop).

      The problem is not that GW2 have no trinity. The problem is us, players. We need learn to play without teh "holly trinity".

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    2. I prefer to think that the developers should watch what their players are doing and enjoying and move in that direction than that the players need to learn to play the way the developers want them to. GW2 free-form combat was a brave experiment but not a particularly successful one. Personally, I feel the real problem is having 5-man instances at all. Not much point throwing out the Trinity if you insist on keeping the box it came in.

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    3. Ooooh I strongly disagree with that statement. The GW2 combat in instanced dungeon is amazing, one that rewards skill, experience, and reflexes.

      It is DIFFERENT from the Trinity. Some people prefer it, some don't. With a group of fully optimized characters and communicating, I have incredibly smooth runs (no wipes) through some of the hardest content in-game (Arah, Fractals 30+). But I also know about groups who fail. The good players succeed, and the not-so-good struggle, and potentially fail. Isn't that what we want in challenging content?

      However, I strongly disagree with the contention that the Trinity will die though. The Trinity is much more structured and allows for far more strategic depth if done properly. It is a different form of "fun." It doesn't make it more or less "successful."

      -Ursan

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    4. @Ursan "However, I strongly disagree with the contention that the Trinity will die though. The Trinity is much more structured and allows for far more strategic depth if done properly."

      The holly trinity is not more structured and not follow more strategic depth. There is only ONE strategy with the holly trinity: tanks taunt and mantain boss hate, while healers heal the tank (and sometimes the dps) and the dps erode the boss health. No variation, no real diversity, no thinking, just follow the manual to letter. There is no possibility of developing of new strategies. We will see players that are very good tanks, dps and healers, but when the tank or the healer dies the party have a lot of problems, because there is no other strategy than tank/healer/dps. That is the reason I said the holly trinity is cheap mechanics, from an era when computing and games were being first developed.

      It is symptomatic that some bloggers described the group dungeon experience in GW2 as "it is chaotic like when the tank dies". That show clearly that players are having problems at get rid from the holly trinity mentality and try new strategies. The reference point that bloggers had was the holly trinity group and anything that is out that reference point is "chaotic".

      New strategies exist, because there are a lot of fast and easy dungeon runs being made in GW2. There are players that are farming dungeons (Arah, CoF, CoE), fractals, and the current temporally dungeon, repeating runs more than 10 times each day.

      There are groups runing that dungeons at less than 15 minutes, with no tank an no healer, so it show that GW2's dungeons were not made for the tinity, they where done for not have the trinity. But some players have problems to adapt to it. IMHO, that will really need time, because for the last 15 years we only had one strategy: the holly trinity.

      But I think if you do'nt adapt you will be extinct. The holly trinity NEED die, or MMO will be stagnant forever. If the holly trinity doesn't die, the MMO will die. See WoW, it lost other 1 million subscripters last quarter. I think everyone knows now that it will continue to bleed subscripters for years until finally be a relic from past ages like EQ is today.

      If MMO don't change, if MMO don't evolve, it will go extinct. And GW2 is an evolution, right?

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    5. The holy Trinity IS more structured though. You have a strict script you have to follow. Your decision making process is streamlined because everything is planned out ahead, and you know exactly what to do in certain situations.

      GW2 combat is much more tactical in the sense that unpredictable situations happen very frequently, and the player has to choose between multiple options on the fly on how to deal with it. It's much more reflexive and adaptive combat. "Chaotic."

      For example, in WoW, a healer has to watch the Tank's health. That is his job (You only had one job!). He has a very clear objective in mind. In GW2 with no roles, players must be able to 1. Damage the boss 2. Dodge the boss 3. Protect your allies 4. Ressurect your allies, and make decisions on what to do on the fly.

      The point is, they are different, but that doesn't mean one is superior to the other. You may like one over the other personally, but you can't assume everyone else thinks like you. There are always people who like the uncertainty of tactical combat in GW2 (Like me) whereas there will always be people who like the structure of strategic combat in WoW.

      Pertaining to WoW though, lets not blame the fact that it's bleeding subscriptions to solely the fact that it has a Trinity. WoW has a myriad of problems. You can't simplify this situation and use it as a proof that the Trinity is failing.

      -Ursan

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    6. @Ursan More structured is not more deep. There is a long discussion in GW2 forums about what are the best builds for each situation and there are diferent builds and strategies that work for dungeons, spvp, pve and wvw.

      When you have a group of players runing dungeons non stop, farming them, it is because they have a strategy that works. It is not casual, it is not luck, it is planned.

      While you cannot see the structure in GW2 combat and it appear to you be "chaotic", that structure and strategy exist. But need go a lot more deep for develop it than the cheap tank/healer/dps.

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    7. For my money a system that leads to "running dungeons non stop, farming them" is intrinsically broken. Dungeons should be an adventure every time, not a place you go to shop for stuff.

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    8. @Bhagpus

      You know that players, being humans, will find a way to farm something. If not the easier way, the harder way. In GW2 certainly will not be the same mob at the same place non stop, there is a system that lower the quantity of drops. The automatical downlevel too not help farming, lower level mobs can kill you if you do'nt take care.

      The dungeons need one or more right strategies for run fast. Like throw rocks at the lovers (or close the door separating them). It is not chaotic, it is not random. Need strategy. Real and deep strategy, not cheap tank/healer/dps that work at all any otehr MMO dungeons. It is not easy, it need strategy.

      And need time. Players eventually found what work. What builds and weapons work better at spvp, pve, dungeons and wvw. What will work for each dungeon. Well, it is more than one for each situation or dungeon. Discover the right strategies don't happened the first month, but players had 8 months for test them to exhaustion.

      So, with few options for farm, because the game have systems that not permit farming open world mobs, it is natural that players had to discover something to farm, sooner or later. And it is not because the dungeons are easy... a lot of bloggers said they are "like when the tank dies"... but players are humans and humans are ingenious.

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    9. @Joao.

      While I appreciate the discussion, I'd appreciate it even more if you could stop implying that I somehow understand this game's combat less than you do.

      When I use the word structure, I'm using this word very strictly: That a player has to worry about only one objective. The decision-making process for a player is streamlined.

      That's not the case in GW2. All players have to be alert, all the time, about everything. Responsibility is shared. Decision-making is not as straight-forward. This is what I mean when I say "less structured."

      Some people like this structure. Other people don't like it, and prefer the spontaneous combat of GW2 (I certainly do.) But you can't assume that your preference applies to the gaming population as a whole. Some people will continue to like the Trinity, some people doesn't like it. That does not mean one is inferior to the other. And I can imagine that enough of the gaming population still enjoys the Trinity enough that at least a good chunk of future games will continue using it.

      @ Bhagpuss. Agree with you, but it's not just dungeons. Any single repeated activity which earns a disproportionate amount of money compared to the rest of the game is bad design.

      -Ursan

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  4. @Bhagpuss "GW2 free-form combat was a brave experiment but not a particularly successful one."

    I think that you need ask how some players are farming CoF and Arah exploration mode dungeons non stop. I fear for them is not a "particularly sucessfull" experiment, but a very sucessfull one. (GW2 is the only MMO where I see dungeon farmers...)

    The holly trinity is old. EQ had it 14 years ago (1999) when I started to play it. The holy trinity was created because MMOs don't had the thecnology for create a more diverse system of combat.

    Sooner or later the holly trinity will die. While the holly trinity refuses to die, MMO will be stagnant. GW2 is a good start. We need more MMO that kill the holly trinity.



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    1. My criteria for any innovation to be rated "very successful" within its field is quite straightforward: is it widely copied by current and/or future competitors? I wait with nervous interest to see if that happens here but I can't say I have seen much sign of it happening yet.

      It's also purely a subjective opinion on my part to say that the experiment has not been particularly successful (note, "not particularly successful" does not mean "not successful"). Some people haven't liked it and I am largely in sympathy with their point of view. Joao is evidence that a countervailing opinion exists. The experiment has certainly not succeeded for me.

      If I have time I might do a full piece on what I want from MMO Group combat in general and Dungeon combat in particular. The short version is I want it to SLOW DOWN. A LOT!! And have fewer scripted encounters. Ideally none.

      I want dungeoneering to consist of penetrating territory held by an established force, requiring slow, careful, steady progress, room by room, corridor by corridor. I want scouting to be vital, splitting, segregating or decommissioning enemy forces to be essential, and individual fights to last minutes not seconds, with recovery also taking minutes. I want the kind of gameplay I had seven to ten years ago, in other words.

      Of course if you'd asked me then I'd have said I wanted the kind of gameplay we have now. And then it all depends what mood I'm in. Tomorrow I'll probably want somethign else again.

      I do want it all to slow down though. I feel like the games are on fast-forward half the time nowadays.

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  5. Heh my first one was kinda disastrous too, and the team couldn't complete the dungeon (quit at boss). Second run was all leet pros who did almost no talking but killed everything quick smart (when they weren't searching for ways to bypass trash).

    Kinda why I hate dungeons in this game. Especially mandatory ones. I had more fun with the first group, but did what I needed to get done with the second which means efficiency wise I shouldn't be looking for friendly people, I should be looking for no life robots when it comes to dungeon teams.

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